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Mobile sales to reach 20pc of online this year: IBM

Elana Anderson

Elena Anderson is executive director of product line management for IBM’s enterprise marketing management group

Consumers shopping on smartphones and tablets will make this a record-breaking year for mobile, according to a senior executive at software, services and mainframe giant IBM Corp.

Given the medium’s popularity, retailers should make mobile Web, applications and mobile email a top priority, said Elena Anderson, executive director of product line management for IBM’s enterprise marketing management group.

“Everyone reads email on their mobile device,” Ms. Anderson said. “I believe email and mobile Web are table stakes in this space. If you’re not doing at least that, then that’s where you need to start.

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“There are other elements to consider, like apps and mobile service,” she said. “If you’re just looking at building a mobile Web site and mobile apps, you’re most likely missing something.”

There is certainly no time to lose, Ms. Anderson pointed out in an extensive interview with this publication.

“Consumers are preparing to shop in droves and retailers who deliver a convenient and integrated shopping experience that spans both in-store and online will be the ones best positioned to cash in,” she said.

“Tablets will continue to spur online mobile sales and we’re expecting social to also make an impact as well.”

IBM is gearing itself to offer extensive mobile services to its clients and prospects via its Smarter Commerce and mobile marketing and location-targeting offerings. Services include Web analytics, messaging, campaign offers and email for mobile efforts.

In this dialogue, Ms. Anderson delves deep into mobile issues and opportunities, offering insight into mobile consumers, expectations for mobile marketing and mobile commerce this year, shopper behavior over the holidays and the ongoing concerns over measurement. Please read on:

Did this year in mobile shape up as IBM expected?
Yes, and it’ll be interesting once the holiday season is over to see if the results were as predicted.

Certainly, we are seeing very aggressive adoption of mobile, both from the consumer – that is, how consumers are adopting applications – and from the customer standpoint, where mobile continues to be a growing priority for our customers.

What stood out in mobile marketing and commerce this year?
Definitely the growth we’re seeing in terms of transactions happening through mobile, which is largely driven by tablet adoption and certainly smartphone adoption.

More broadly, there are a lot of interesting things going on in the banking and travel industries in terms of interacting through a mobile device becoming a standard. As it pertains to mobile retail in particular, adoption of tablets is driving an increase in retail commerce activity.

Have brands and retailers finally embraced mobile, or does the wooing still need to continue?
Retailers vary – there are a lot of different sized retailers and not all have a need for a mobile app.

Have the larger retailers embraced mobile? Yes, absolutely. Has every retailer embraced mobile? No. Some retailers are skeptical.

The real answer depends on the segment we’re talking about.

The fact remains the same: every retailer needs a mobile strategy, whether that’s the need to build an app, or to make themselves visible in another retailer’s app. It really depends on the segment and what that particular retailer is trying to achieve.

Agencies still seem hesitant to put serious budgets behind mobile. Why?
If this question is in respect to mobile advertising or SMS, mobile advertising is very personal, very opt-in, as opposed to batch-and-blast, which may be what is stymieing mobile advertising.

That said, a lot of financial services companies and telcos are pursuing mobile advertising plays, where customers can subscribe to GPS-driven offers. We’re seeing that type of mobile advertising activity, less so than agency-driven.

Measurement, rather the lack of it, is a major mobile bugbear for marketers. What should be done about it?
It depends on what type of tactic we’re talking about.

I don’t see mobile as a channel, but rather a collection of channels such as email, apps [and] mobile advertising. So to say measurement is a major issue is a little broad.

To the extent that I am investing in a mobile site or mobile application or mobile email, all of those tactics are very direct forms of marketing communication, where companies can judge ROI.

You can measure how customers are using an app, how they’re interacting, whether or not they’re buying or if the app is increasing satisfaction – that is all very measureable. I find mobile to actually be quite measureable.

What is it about mobile that marketers should know before it’s too late?
I would say it’s a very personal channel and if we continue pursuing traditional-style marketing through the mobile device – that is, blast and spray –it will backfire on the mobile channel.

Marketers need to respect the channel and the fact that opt-ins are even more crucial on a device that can be so potentially interruptive.

Is mobile becoming a duopoly with Apple and Google dominating the market with their operating systems?
Yes.

Can we call time-out on some mobile marketing channels, especially since mobile Web and apps seem to be the dominant favorites?
I think perhaps this is a prioritization issue. But most retailers should be thinking about mobile Web, apps and mobile email.

Everyone reads email on their mobile device. I believe email and mobile Web are table stakes in this space. If you’re not doing at least that, then that’s where you need to start.

There are other elements to consider, like apps and mobile service. If you’re just looking at building a mobile Web site and mobile apps, you’re most likely missing something.

What can we expect this holiday season in terms of mobile marketing and mobile commerce?
Consumers are preparing to shop in droves and retailers who deliver a convenient and integrated shopping experience that spans both in-store and online will be the ones best positioned to cash in.

This will certainly be a record-breaking year in terms of mobile. We expect mobile sales to reach 20 percent of online sales this year.

Tablets will continue to spur online mobile sales and we’re expecting social to also make an impact as well. I’d recommend taking a look at our Holiday Readiness Report.

How will mobile in 2013 differ from this year, and what does that mean for marketers?
I think we are moving from the exploratory phase of mobile to the, “Hey, I need a mobile strategy,” phase.

Mobile is moving from something early adopters are focused on, to something all companies should be doing.

Interesting data from IBM

Email marketing stats:

 Over the last three months, as much as 38 percent of emails are opened on a mobile device

 Apple devices are preferred devices to open emails on mobile devices

 Consumers tend to use mobile devices on weekends to open emails

 The percentage of emails opened on mobile devices continues to outgrow other platforms such as Web of software clients

 The percentage of emails opened on mobile devices has grown as much as 10 percent in the last nine months

From IBM’s recent Online Retail Index:

To gain additional consumer insights into the quarter, IBM conducted a sentiment analysis focused on departments to determine some factors that might be driving their success.

What IBM found is that positive sentiment towards these retailers remains strong at 35.4 percent, three times that of negative sentiment for the second straight quarter. This positive sentiment was driven by three factors:

Advertisements: Positive sentiment around ads grew to 21.3 percent, more than twice the amount of negative sentiment, with consumers not just watching ads but doing so with interest, referring to them as “catchy” and “stylish,” and sharing this feedback with friends on social networks.

Multichannel experience: Departments stores continued to meet the customer’s multichannel needs, with positive sentiment around the in-store experience reaching 22.8 percent, while online topped out at 24.3 percent, both more than double the negative sentiment.

Online coupons: Consumers voiced growing enthusiasm around the advantages delivered through online coupons.

Convenience: Whether in-store or online, convenience was critical.

According the index, positive sentiment around convenience reached an astounding 67.3 percent, more than six times that on the negative side.

Please click here to download IBM's 5th Annual Online Retail Holiday Readiness Report

Editor in Chief Mickey Alam Khan covers advertising agencies, associations, research and mobile marketing issues, as well as column submissions. Reach him at mickey@napean.com.

 
Related content: Q&A, Elana Anderson, IBM, Smarter Commerce, mobile marketing, mobile commerce, mobile advertising, mobile

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